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What is Autism Spectrum Disorder | Signs and Symptoms of ASD

According to the Pakistan Autism Society, almost 400,000 children are suffering from Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in Pakistan. Autism is a developmental disorder that impacts children in different ways affecting their communication skills, social abilities, and behavioral patterns. In this blog, we will dig into every little detail about autism, its causes, symptoms, treatments, and so on. 

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism is a developmental disorder of the brain that lasts with a person for a lifetime. The first symptom appears before the child is three years old. It is termed a "spectrum" because it affects each individual differently, with varying degrees of impairment in verbal or non-verbal communication. People with autism show repetitive or restrictive behavior and have a limited set of activities and interests.

Almost 31% of children with autism have intellectual disabilities, 40% of children with autism are non-verbal, and 28% of children with autism engage in self-harming processes. Males are more affected by this disease as compared to females. 

Causes of Autism Spectrum Disorder

The main cause of autism in children is still unknown but according to scientific research, it is believed to be a combination of environmental factors and defective genes. Research demonstrates that autism is a genetic disorder and runs generation after generation. Besides that, environmental factors such as the advanced age of parents, exposure of unborn children to particular chemicals or air pollution, diabetes, obesity in mothers, immune system issues, extremely low birth weight, and birth defects cause the baby's brain to experience less oxygen are the main causes of autism in children. 

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of Autism vary widely among people, but the common symptoms are, 

Symptoms Related to Social Skills
  • Avoids eye contact
  • Do not show any facial expressions such as sad, happy, or angry by the age of 9 months
  • Do not involved in any kind of games
  • Do not show any gestures by the age of 12 months
  • Avoid playing with others by the age of 15 months
  • Do not notice when somebody gets hurt or upset by the age of 24 months
Symptoms Related to Restricted or Repetitive Behavior
  • Arranges toys or other items in a line and becomes irritated if the sequence is altered
  • Repeatedly uses the same words or phrases (called echolalia)
  • Plays with toys, in the same manner, each time
  • Angry at little adjustments
  • Possess obsessive interests
  • Must adhere to a specific routine
  • Reacts strangely to tastes, smells, looks, or feels
Other Developmental symptoms
  • Have delayed motor skills
  • Have delayed language skills
  • Have delayed learning or cognitive skills
  • Have seizure disorder or epilepsy
  • Have impulsive, hyperactive, or inattentive behavior
  • Strange sleeping and eating habits
  • Have bizarre emotional reactions
  • Have gastrointestinal issues
  • Shows stress, anxiety, and extra worries about little things
  • Shows more fear than expected or lack of fear
Diagnosis

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) cannot be diagnosed with a blood test or other simple medical test, hence making diagnosis difficult. To diagnose a child with autism, medical professionals consider the child's social behavior and developmental history. ASD can occasionally be identified in children as early as 18 months. It is important to diagnose children suffering from autism as early as possible, so that they may receive the proper support and assistance they need to reach their full potential. Proper diagnosis involves three steps,

  1. Developmental Monitoring: Keeping an eye on your child's growth and determining whether they are meeting the normal developmental milestones that most kids acquire by that specific age in terms of playing, learning, speaking, acting, and moving is involved in developmental monitoring.
  2. Developmental Screening: A deeper examination of your child's development is done through developmental screening. Compared to developmental monitoring, developmental screening is more formal. Even In case of no known concern, it is a standard part of child checkups.
  3. Developmental Diagnosis: In this stage, the doctor or specialist may give the child a task, ask their parents a few questions, or give them a questionnaire to fill out.  This will help in finding out the child’s strengths and weaknesses and will help you get an idea of whether the child meets the criteria for developmental diagnosis or not. 

The result of this formal developmental diagnosis can tell whether your child needs early medical services or not. In some cases, the doctor may suggest testing for your child or genetic counseling. 

Treatment 

The goal of current autism spectrum disorder therapies is to reduce symptoms that affect a person's ability to function normally and to improve quality of life. Since autism affects each individual differently, each person with autism has various strengths and problems as well as requires specific treatment. Numerous treatment options are available. Although some treatments use more than one strategy, these treatments may typically be divided into the following categories:

Behavioral treatment: Involves Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) approach, in which desired behaviors are encouraged and undesired behaviors are discouraged to improve the quality of life. 

Educational treatment: Involves Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication-Handicapped Children (TEACCH) approach. This treatment is given in the classroom with verbal and physical instruction.

Developmental treatment: Involves Speech, Language, and Occupational Therapy, in which children with autism understand the use of speech and language and live as independently as possible.

Pharmacological treatment: In this treatment, medicines are used to treat the symptoms of anxiety, stress, sleeping problems, seizures, and gastrointestinal issues. 

Social-Relational treatment: This treatment uses the Floor Time and Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) model, which involves activities that help children focus on improving their social interactions and emotional bonding.

Psychological treatment: Involves Cognitive-Behavior Therapy (CBT), which helps children cope with anxiety and depression and focuses on learning the connection between feeling and behavior. 

Supporting Individuals with Autism

Communities, educators, and families play a vital role in helping people with autism. Fostering acceptance and understanding, offering access to supporting resources, and promoting an inclusive environment are the main components of an effective support system. By increasing awareness and educating people about autism and by advocating for inclusive practices and policies you can decrease the stigma and help people suffering from autism. 

Conclusion

In short, Autism Spectrum Disorder is a very complex disease that requires complete understanding, and a comprehensive approach to support people suffering from it. You can build a more accepting and inclusive society for people with autism and their families by increasing knowledge, encouraging acceptance, and supporting inclusive legislation and practices. Moreover, Bebambi offers a developmental chart that helps parents track their children's developmental milestones. Download our app now and if you notice a delay in reaching a specific milestone then immediately visit your doctor. 

 

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